April 20, 2018: Mahikeng completely locked down by protesters

In Danville, just outside Mahikeng, community members told Police Minister Bheki Cele why residents around the North West province had begun a mass action in an appeal for the ANC to remove Premier Supra Mahumapelo. There is no community centre, so these citizens meet under streetlights where they talk about their children who have no school toilets.

It is the third day of protests in the province, and residents are sustaining a strike action that has seen Mahikeng, the capital of the North West, under complete lockdown.

While Mahumapelo’s government has spent R180-million on a contract with a Gupta-linked business for no work done, residents have watched the city and its services continue to stagnate.

“We are a community in need. If you can go around and look at how our people are living, it’s 24 years into our new democratically elected government, and nothing has changed for us,” one community leader in Danville asked of Cele.

“Our learners have to leave school to go home because the toilets are non-functional [at the school]. The wires are hanging from the roof,” he said.

The demands of this Danville community include that roads should be paved and fixed, more street lights must be installed, and that a derelict stadium, which was never completed, must be restored because it’s now an area of drug abuse.

Cele arrived in Danville on Friday morning. He, along with other senior ANC officials, will meet to discuss the crisis in the province. President Cyril Ramaphosa was expected to start the meeting, which will also include the National Executive Committee, at 12pm.

Cele asked residents about crime in the area, but for the most part the community said that it was reasonably safe and crime is “very low”.

“Hijacking? Stabbing?” Cele asked them. “No!” residents answered in unity.

According to the community leader, residents in Danville are majority ANC supporters. They are now turning to national government, the leader said, because they have found little support from the province under Mahumapelo.

“This is an ANC dominated community, but we are not getting anything. We are not violent, Minister, our protest was never violent. We were fighting just for a better life for us as the big people of the community and for our small children,” the community leader said.

“We do not even have a community hall where we can have meetings. We keep it only under the streetlights where we can have meetings.”

Cele said the ANC are meeting to take decisions “to make the situation in this province better”.

Mahumapelo has been linked to the Guptas, and the R180-million contract with Mediosa, a Gupta-linked medical technology company, has provoked uproar.

Beyond the outrage, there is definitive crisis as striking health workers, who are demanding an end to the Mediosa contract and salary increases, have led to stockouts in clinics and some clinics have closed.

Recent protect action for Mahumapelo to step down and better service delivery, has also led to stoning at the entrance and exit of the provincial hospital, preventing staff from going to work. On Thursday morning, the hospital was forced to discharge even critically sick patients.

So far, 23 people have been arrested in connection with public violence and other charges related to the protests. Ramaphosa, however, has asked police to react with restraint, but some protesters have accused the police of brutality.

Mahumapelo, meanwhile, has insisted that the protest is a political conspiracy by his detractors in the ANC and the Economic Freedom Fighters, who have brought a motion of no confidence against him.

The ANC will meet this afternoon and an outcome from the meeting is expected to be communicated later today. (Mail & Guardian, Johannesburg)